DOCUMENT checks on immigration status would not be required at the border of an independent Scotland, experts have suggested.

Dr Sarah Kyambi, director of think-tank Migration Policy Scotland, said she would caution against the idea a border control always involves a “physical marker” where “somebody checks your documents”.

podcast for the University of Edinburgh’s Centre on Constitutional Change, also heard warnings that the UK Government’s post-Brexit immigration policy is having a particular impact on Scotland – but that pleas for a more regionalised approach had “fallen on deaf ears”.

Kyambi said the situation for an independent Scotland was now more complicated than at the time of the last referendum in 2014, as it is likely to be in both the Common Travel Area (CTA) and EU at the same time.

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She said the more immigration policy north of the Border diverged from the rest of the UK, the more there would need to be some measure of controls.

“I feel we do not know enough about what the options would be - what I would caution against is the idea that border controls is always a physical marker somewhere where somebody checks your documents,” she said.

“I think in a way borders are much more diffuse now – it is about employers checking your right to work, so they would make sure you have the right to work in the territory you are working in, and that would happen in a workplace or that a service provider would check your eligibility for a particular service, which might include your immigration status.

“So these might be happening in different locations and potentially benefit from increased automation.”

She added: “When we talk about that this will require borders, what I would like to get away from is the idea that it will be borders and checkpoints – that is often what appears in people’s imaginations when they think about crossing an international border.”

Kyambi also said that if Scotland is not part of the UK it may feel the impact of its “fast-ageing population” more keenly.

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But she added: “The benefit would be then as an independent sovereign state, Scotland would have the levers to set its own migration policy within, which it could factor in pursuing its population aims - so it would have significantly more freedom to address that question within its migration framework.”

The National: David Bell, emeritus professor of economics at the University of StirlingDavid Bell, emeritus professor of economics at the University of Stirling

David Bell, emeritus professor of economics at the University of Stirling, told the Constitutionally Sound podcast that Scotland would “almost certainly” be part of the CTA, which currently includes the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

“That would mean travel would be unencumbered between Scotland, England and Ireland,” he said. “Then the question is do you feel strongly enough about your migration policy to police who is settling where closely?

“I think as an English-speaking country, Scotland would in many respects be quite an attractive destination, with a good standard of living, a good set of public services.

“And then almost inevitably as in other small European countries around the same size there might be pressures to rein in immigration, to adopt controls in the way that Denmark appears to be examining at the moment.”

Bell, who served as a member of the Scottish Government’s independent expert advisory group on migration and population, said there was no reason why an independent Scotland would not be able to diverge from the rest of the UK on immigration policy while in the CTA.

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He pointed to the example of Ireland adopting a more liberal policy than the UK in welcoming Ukrainian refugees, although said a divergent approach would involve devoting more resources to ensuring the policy is successful.

On the issue of immigration checks he added: “There may be ways of dealing with enforcement that don’t involve physical checks at borders and more and more information on people’s activities and location is becoming available.

“You then run into a set of ethical questions about how far you want to track people and whether that is consistent with a liberal democracy. But these are someway down the line.”

Bell told the podcast the UK Government’s change to a post-Brexit points-based immigration system had not changed levels of migration, but the “composition has changed dramatically”.

He said the top three countries in the year to March 2022, in terms of successful skilled visa applications to the UK, were India, Nigeria and the Philippines.

“We don’t yet really know how these migrants are being distributed across the UK, these figures will hopefully come soon. But my suspicion is there will be a huge concentration of these migrants in the south-east of England,” he added.

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“Another objective of the UK Government, namely the Levelling Up agenda, will actually be undermined by this new migration policy.”

Bell said suggestions to take a more regionalised approach to immigration had been shunned by the UK Government.

“I think the view the UK Government took was that everyone would go to London – which doesn’t terribly help and in some cases is manifestly untrue,” he said.

“But nevertheless that was largely the view they took.”

He added: “One could start at least with running pilots to see how such a system might work, but the UK Government is just simply not interested.”